Rhythm & Views

Magnolia Electric Co.

Fading Trails is a compilation of songs from four different recording sessions; there's the Nashville Moon session, recorded with Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio studio in Chicago; the Black Ram session, produced by Cracker's David Lowery in Richmond, Va.; the Sun Studio session, done at the famous Memphis, Tenn., studio; and finally, the Shohola sessions, recorded by Jason Molina in his house. Some songs reveal their place of recording: the last two songs, just guitar and vocals, are probably of Shohola; the first two songs, the most fleshed-out bits of Molina's style of country, have that crisp Albini mark; and the organ and slide guitar on "Lonesome Valley" are very David Lowery.

The fact that it's hard to pin down the other songs proves that they cohere into a record that is spare in instrumentation and grave in emotion. Molina's style is often compared to Neil Young, but on "Spanish Moon Fall and Rise," his voice wavers on higher notes, and sounds more like a melancholy Willie Nelson--Molina's alt-country is always aware of its traditional ancestry. The guitar on the other moon song on the record, "Memphis Moon," gives it an aged blues mood, and the piano on "The Old Horizon" echoes with the spirits of old folk songs meant to mourn and terrify. "Everything in its place, the world does have to end in pain," sings Molina on "Steady Now."

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